Over the past season, Winona State ran some form of this concept 22 times inside the 30 yard line. Of those 22 snaps, they completed 17 of those passes with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. At nearly 78% completion, this concept was their most successful concept within our whole passing attack. Read about it here...
By Cameron Keller
Assistant Head Coach / Offensive Coordinator
Winona State University (MN)
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In today’s game, everybody runs some version of play-action pass to match their desired run game. For us, being an Inside/Outside Zone & Power team, the ability to effectively run our Power Pass has been instrumental in our offensive success. Especially in the red-zone, the Power Pass concept for us is one that we have leaned on a lot for great success throwing the football inside the 30 yard line. Where I think we have done a really nice job over the past 6 years is being able to take whatever it is we are running that week in terms of formations, and fitting our power pass concept to those same looks to better eliminate any tendencies we might show in our formational play calling from week to week. We run Power 3 different ways: 2 Back, 1 Back, and QB power. The trick for us is to be able to install the base concept for our Power Pass in such a way that no matter what the formation we run it out of, our guys always know what the base concept looks like and can adjust accordingly from there.
Base Power Pass
Like most teams running power pass, our base concept is based off of a “Flood” Concept: achieving 3 distinct levels outside of the numbers. We do this with a number of route combinations, but our base concept involves a vertical, corner route, and a flat route (Diagram #1). This base concept teaches our QBs how to read High to Low and also have the automatic hot route built in.
In the red-zone, specifically, we don’t run this exact route very much due to spacing issues with the vertical but I like to show this base install for teaching purposes so people can see what we are trying to accomplish from the beginning with the teaching of our QB’s read progression. Specifically for our QBs, they read the CB first to determine if we can take a shot with the vertical. If the CB bails and stays over the top, their eyes travel to the alley player the read the Corner/Flat route combination. Where a lot of young QBs make their mistake, in my opinion, involves the initial read on the CB. I teach all of my QBs if the CB is looking at you and trying to play both the vertical and corner route, take the shot. If he turns his back and runs, find the alley player. If the alley player sinks, throw the flat route to the FB. If the alley player jumps the Flat route, throw the Corner route. We have 2 main teaching points with all of our Corner Routes:
- Always run the route skinny, aiming at the front pylon until we get inside the 30…at that point the aiming point changes to the back pylon. This give the QB leeway to flatten out the route if the safety sits over the top. This is the main reason I say to throw the corner route if the alley player jumps the flat route.
- If we get a safety that has outside leverage on our corner route, we will convert the corner to a skinny post. This adjustment will be shown in one of the video clips.
The one thing I want to point out with this read involves how a lot of people talk about the FB route in the flat in terms of “You can’t go broke taking a profit”. I’m not sure this has ever been talked about in my QB room because last I checked, you can throw a TD on 3rd and 3 even if the FB is always open! For us, the defense always dictates where we throw the ball regardless of the down and distance.
QB Run Power Pass
We have never been a team that relies on the QB run game as a big part of our offense. Despite not running the QB, we still have had a lot of success utilizing this play action in the Red Zone to give us another option. We’ve had the most success with this concept out of 3x1 formations using our 4 vertical passing concept (Diagram #3). Our Play Action out of the gun will emulate Outside Zone to the 3 receiver surface allowing for a single safety read for the QB to the backside of the play. In the Red Zone, we are able to get the ball out quickly to allow for better protection of the QB. We also have the ability to start the RB in the slot and motion him back into the backfield to run the play action off of the Jet Sweep motion as well with this concept.
Throughout all of the teachings we have for our Power Pass concept, probably the biggest variation we have comes in the Red Zone when we get into one of our Heavy/Goal Line Personnel packages. Obviously we adjust our routes out of our normal personnel groupings due to the constricted space, but the most change comes within the heavy packages. Regardless of what heavy personnel grouping we are in, our primary goal switches from a Flood concept to a simple Smash concept. For us, our smash concept consists of any 2 man route combination that hi/lo’s the Corner Back. We have a couple of different ways to accomplish this but our main way is a Corner Route and a flat route.
We run a lot of power out of 22 personnel in the Red Zone and because of that have been able to have a lot of success with the power pass off of it. We have two ways to run it: At the single WR side, or away from the single WR side. Keeping in mind we switch to more of a Smash concept, our guys know we are looking to get a Corner route and a Flat route to the call side. The only thing that changes is the single WR. If we run the play to his side, he runs a quick slant to take the Corner out of the equation allowing us to hi/lo the alley defender (Diagram #6).
If we run the play away from the single WR, we still get the Corner route and the flat route, but now we have the backside WR run an over route to serve as the 3rd option for the QB (Diagram #7). In both of these options, the QB’s initial read is the leverage of the Safety over the TE as our TE can convert the Corner to a quick post if the Safety plays him outside, just like we do with all of our other corner routes. Typically, I tell the TEs to keep the corner route on from Week to Week due getting mostly Man coverage inside the 10 and I will then tag the post route. The QB’s eyes then travel to the alley defender and he reads the same hi/lo read as he does in the other routes. One benefit for us out of this formation is we will always keep the back side TE in for protection to create a longer edge on the backside. The QBs get taught, even if the CB blitzes, the ball should be thrown and he will not get there in time.
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- The “hump” technique that Coach Keller uses in protection to prevent the play side tackle turning too quickly, opening up run-thrus in the C gap.
- His power pass/curl concept used most frequently in the red zone
- How Coach Keller is able to get three routes in the concept in his one-back power pass scheme.
- How he pairs his power pass with the vertical passing game out of open, 3x1 formation structures.
- Why the power pass concept out of 32 personnel groupings causes defenses the most issues in coverage.
- Narrated and raw game cutups of this concept.
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This concept has been a great weapon for us inside the red zone due to our ability to make small adjustments to our routes and the ways we run them. But, more than anything, our ability to keep the same concepts in play but now run them out of heavy packages as well makes it even tougher to defend for defenses, yet all of the reads stay the same for the QBs. The route concepts to me don’t matter as much as the way it gets installed from the beginning. No matter what concept you settle on for this play action, the ability to make it fit with everything you do with your QBs will make life a lot easier on them from a learning perspective and a lot more successful down the road.
Meet Coach Keller: Keller has 17 years of experience between Falcon High School, Hastings College, Culver-Stockton College, and Winona State University. Since joining the WSU coaching staff in 2011, Keller’s offenses have broken 34 WSU and NSIC records including QB Jack Nelson becoming the NSIC all-time leader in passing, going over 12,000 career yards in 2016. Keller’s offenses have averaged over 275 yards per game passing during those 6 years, including a NSIC record 3,570 yards passing in 2015.
Key Statistics: Over the past season, we ran some form of this concept 22 times inside the 30 yard line. Of those 22 snaps, we completed 17 of those passes with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. At nearly 78% completion, this concept was our most successful concept within our whole passing attack. To go along with the 78% completion rate, the thing I like the most about the concept is we did not give up 1 sack in our Power Pass Concept inside the Red Zone this past season.